How to Plan a Corporate Event at a Hotel

    April 10, 2019

    For party planners, hotels are often a dream come true. Not only do they tend to offer expansive event space, impressive accommodations, and amenities like onsite catering, but they’ve got built-in overnight accommodations for multi-day soirees or conferences. 


    Hotels are a prime spot for hosting corporate events in particular — from valet parking to presentation-ready tech, they cover all the bases. So, where do you start when choosing a location? What perks are essential, and which are just too much?


    We’re laying out some facts about planning a corporate event at a hotel, whether you're shuttling in employees from out of town, need a quiet space to host a half-day workshop or something in between.

    Identify your Audience
    While you'll likely get a mix of participants at your event, there should be a developed audience you have in mind and are actively catering to. Are you trying to impress shareholders? Is your event meant to reward employees? Will there be networking or career development themes?


    Identify the top goal you want to accomplish, along with a few smaller mini-goals. Make sure that the smaller targets work to support the larger one, and plan everything with that significant milestone in mind. Your event can't be all things to everyone, but with an achievable goal in mind, you can set yourself up for success.


    Know What You Need (and What You Don’t)
    Hotel venues are quick to point out all of the perks that come with booking an event at their location. Elements such as upscale dining options, high-tech A/V, and proximity to walkable attractions and nightlife are all big plusses when booking. If your corporate event doesn't require as much, however, you’ll likely end up paying for amenities that don't apply to your group.   


    If budget matters (and doesn’t it always?), come armed with a list of must-haves, nice-to-haves, and not-necessary features. Be prepared to pay for things that you can’t go without, but the better you understand how a hotel’s package pricing works, the more you can ensure you’re getting the best for you company’s bucks. And if they insist on pushing pricey extras your direction? Feel free to move on to the next venue.


    Consider your Crowd’s Journey
    If most of your attendees are local or you’re hosting a one-day event, ample parking should be considered (though you can encourage the use of ride shares as well). Likewise, if you’re hosting out-of-town guests, your locale should be close to public transportation lines or held at a destination that’s affordable for those booking their own transportation.


    It’s easy to get wrapped up in the details of the on-site planning and forget about how your guests will get to your event. Take time to assess what an attendee’s most important transportation and parking challenges are, and look to solve them in advance of their arrival.  


    Embrace Imagination
    The hotel may not always have the best vision for how to transform a stuffy conference room into a space your attendees will want to hang out in all day. Ask about customization options, and come prepared with ideas for elevating the standard floorplan of typical conference halls into something fresh and inspiring.


    Whether you look to outside vendors to help make that happen, or you enlist internal creative teams, imagination will be rewarded when you use it to reinvent the standard meeting spaces that many hotels offer.


    Venue pick: The Ivy Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland has continued to delight guests with its world-class privacy, hospitality, and technology. Choose from several booking areas, including a wine cellar, treasury, tasting room, and patio. With so many spaces to choose from, your corporate event is sure to impress.


    Reinvent Dining Expectations 
    Sure, some businesses pay a top dollar for a high-quality meal served during their event. But anyone who has attended more than a few corporate soirees is familiar with the standard hotel fare — continental breakfast muffins, deli sandwiches with chips, you get the idea.


    Thankfully, more hotels are branching out these days, offering ways to serve impressive dishes that don’t come with a hefty price tag.


    Whether you partner with a hotel that has a more innovative in-house menu, or you look to see how outside vendors can work into your plan, don’t be afraid to ditch the same-old hotel eats for something fresher. Ask the venue what they recommend — some have partnered with world-class chefs, food trucks, or winery tours to bring best-in-class culinary experiences to their onsite events. 


    Ask About Room Block Rules
    Getting a discount for booking a set number of rooms for guests is common. But what happens if they don’t all fill up? If you overbook, will there be rooms set aside at regular price? How are cancellations handled? Can you get a discount for prepayment of the rooms?


    These are all valid questions to ask when considering a venue. Know what the standard procedure is for securing rooms for your on-site guests, and get everything in writing. If there are terms that don’t fit your needs, ask if they can be changed. Many hotels are good about tweaking their standard procedures to gain your business if the request is reasonable. 


    Stay to Play
    Even if your event is all about business, it can also an opportunity to build relationships through after-hours activities. If this is something you’re interested in, consider booking a hotel that has space for mixing and mingling, poolside breaks, or outdoor team-building games. 


    Whether you do something onsite or shuttle everyone to a location down the street, the right corporate event should seamlessly transition from business to pleasure and make it easy for guests to enjoy the entire schedule. 


    Tour the Venue Early, and Often
    While it may not be in the cards to tour your venue before booking, it’s wise to be on alert for any red flags you notice. Check online reviews, and inquire about renovations that can leave certain services or amenities out of service or other events that may be happening at the same time.


    If possible, you can even make an impromptu stop in the week before the event to ensure everything is as it seems. You might try popping in without notifying management and make a list of things you want to ask about later. On the day of the event, arrive at least one hour early, and give other members of your team the authority to handle last-minute emergencies if they arise.



    All too often, corporate event planners go with what they’ve always done. If you have a corporate event coming up, exploring the ways you can breathe new life into even the most traditional activities can be a real game-changer for your next business gathering. The options are endless — and often even surprising.